It would be easy if all we had to do was tell our students what all of our classroom procedures are on the first day of school. In a perfect world, they would remember the procedures and follow them without fail until the very last day of school. Dream on! They are kids. They will forget.
Make learning the procedures a concrete, hands-on activity throughout the first weeks of school. Begin with the most important procedures: entering the classroom, opening the class, transitions, and dismissal. Then you may add other procedures later, such as putting the heading on papers, turning in homework, sharpening pencils, etc.
In his book The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, Dr. Harry K. Wong suggests a three-step process for teaching classroom procedures to students:
- Explain classroom procedures clearly.
- Rehearse classroom procedures until they become routines.
- Reinforce a correct procedure and reteach an incorrect one.
The bottom line is: Plan on spending a lot of time teaching your classroom procedures, practicing them with your students, and reinforcing them during the first few weeks of school. And if you teach middle school students, remember that your students have several other teachers whose procedures may be different from yours. You may want to get together with some of the other teachers before the start of the school year to agree upon a set of uniform procedures for those not already regulated by your school district.
In addition, post your procedures in a prominent place. This is a good way to remind students of how things are done in your classroom. For example:
When the tardy bell rings . . .
- Be in your seat ready to work quietly.
- Place your homework assignment on your desk so it is ready to be collected.
- Begin the opening activity (directions are on the board/overhead projector each day).
- Wait quietly for the teacher's instruction.
When the dismissal bell rings . . .
- At the sound of the bell, close your book and stop working.
- Stay in your seat until you hear the teacher dismiss you.
- Leave quietly and in an orderly manner.
This article was adapted from The New Teacher's Complete Sourcebook: Middle School by Paula Naegle (© 2002, published by Scholastic).